Saturday, March 10, 2018

More About the Robert Taylor House

This morning, I got a call from Pat Fenoff, our city historian, who told me that I had gotten something wrong in the post about the Robert Taylor House. I had attributed to her the information that the house dated from the early 1800s, when the fact was that records of ownership of the house could only be traced back to the early 1800s. The house is believed to have been built around 1790, and the post has been corrected accordingly.

Fenoff also brought me with a copy of the Building Structure Inventory that was done by Shirley Dunn in 1983 when the house, as part of the Hudson Historic District, was nominated for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Two sections from the report are of particular interest.
The house is of large bricks laid in common bond. This size brick was also popular in the 1780's and 1790's houses on lower Union Street. The Taylor House has an English-type gambrel roof with wide top and relatively low-pitched upper section, three "Dutch" or flat-roofed dormers on the east face of the roof and two similar early dormers on the west face of the roof. The east facade has a full-length porch and the house has four symmetrically placed end chimneys. This is unusual in a gambrel-roofed house of one-and-a-half stories, but not unknown. . . . The west facade of the Taylor House has five bays with a center doorway featuring an early door of six panels with an unusual door knocker. The house is unlike any other in the city and most resembles houses in the vernacular Dutch style built twenty to forty years earlier. Inside it has a center hall with flanking rooms, an eighteenth century stair rail and newel post, and an early door in the south wall of the south living room. This door once led to a stair which went up beside the chimney.
This house has both historical and architectural importance in Hudson and in the Hudson Valley. The house is reported by descendants to have been built by Robert Taylor for his family "before 1800." A house appears in the location on the 1799 Penfield Map, a map showing lands around Hudson. 1801 and 1806 maps clearly label the lot as Robert Taylor's. While not one of the Proprietors, Taylor was an early associate of these men. He had a tannery on the South Bay, just south of this house. The tannery lot appears on all early Hudson maps. Buildings probably associated with the tanyard were still visible when photographed about 1885, but were overshadowed by a huge railroad building on the tannery grounds. All are now gone except the house, which assumes great importance as a remaining relic of the early tannery period. The house and tannery were next owned by Peter Taylor, a son of Robert Taylor. Peter Taylor appears on the 1839 map. As late as 1873, a map identifies the property as the Taylor Estate. In the early days, another tanyard was located to the southeast of the Taylor property, giving Tannery Lane [i.e., Tanners Lane] its name. The tanyards were very important to early Hudson prosperity and growth, when hides were imported, tanned, and sent out again. The house has great historical importance.
Its architecture is a cause of speculation, because it seems more related to the local vernacular architecture than to the New England settlers; yet in its use of four chimneys and in its broad gambrel there are New England touches. However, the newel post and door are decidedly vernacular, as are the dormers, and the whole impression is Dutch. A house of similar period on Union Street has the gambrel and dormers, but is a two story dwelling with three bays, decidedly more English. The Taylor House's relationship to the local vernacular architecture make this unusual house associated with one of the Proprietors' close allies a valuable lesson in architectural evolution.
Detail from the 1799 Penfield map 

The house on Union Street mentioned by Dunn is this one, which stood at 128 Union Street.

The house had to be demolished in 1993, after a fire damaged it so severely that it was determined reluctantly to be beyond salvation. 

Photo: Neal Van Deusen
The west wall of the house remained standing for two decades, because it served as the side wall of an infill house at 124 Union Street. 

The wall came down until 2013, when the infill house was demolished to make way for an addition to the house at 122 Union Street. 

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